04 December, 2010

My Fierce Cords

(this is like 4 years old, I just found it)

Once I fell in love with a girl who had a tape recorder for a head. In high school kids made fun of her because she didn't have a nose or a mouth. Even now that she was grown up she couldn't escape it. She'd be walking down the street and "Hey Tape Recorder!" some asshole would yell. "Where's your face?" She couldn't even say anything back because, like I said, she didn't have a mouth. Sometimes if the guy said "Go kill yourself" she could play it back to him: "Go kill yourself. (whirr) Go kill yourself." But that wasn't very satisfying since she didn't think it up herself.

*Why couldn't I be a CD player or something,* she wrote on a whiteboard that she then passed to me. *Or, like, an iPod? Something not as embarrassing and obsolete as a tape recorder.*

"That would be weird," I said, "because when you were born iPods weren't even invented. No one would know what you were. Also, your head would be really tiny. People would think you had no head at all."

*Better no head at all than a tape recorder*, she said.

"Don't say that," I said.

We were friends all our lives. We grew up together. I was middling popular because I'm good at sports, so I was able to protect her somewhat from the other kids. They used to threaten to eject her tapes and stomp on them, but then I told the principal and they got suspended. My girlfriend--I mean, she wasn't my girlfriend then--accepted my help gracefully. She wasn't embarrassed or awkward like some people might have been.

My parents were surprised when we started dating the summer after we graduated. "But you have your whole life ahead of you," they fretted, "and she has a tape recorder for a head." I blew up at them, although it wasn't that strange a concern. My girlfriend couldn't even keep a job at the video store because customers were scared by her appearance. "I came here to rent a movie about freakish creatures, not see one!" one woman complained to the manager. My girlfriend was planning to study writing and computer programming in college, since those were two careers where no one saw you and you didn't have to talk. I had gotten into a good college and was planning to be a doctor. My parents meant well; they didn't want me to spend my life with someone who was going to have such a difficult time. But that didn't stop me from being mad as hell and telling them They Didn't Understand The Love I Had For Her, Which Made Sense Because They Clearly Didn't Love Each Other At All. I was normally a quiet, unassuming kid so my parents were stunned by how angry I got. Which made the whole tirade much more effective.

I was just as vitriolic with my friends. Not eveyrone, but some people, people who knew me as me and her as that weird Tape Recorder Head Girl I always defending, though it was weird. "Look, no offense, but is it because you feel bad for her?" they'd ask. "Because really, I thought Sarah or Kirsten would be more your type."

"I love her in a way no one will ever love you because you're a bigot," I'd say. "Why don't you go run over some gay people and Muslims in your Hummer."

I was full of self-righteousness when I spoke to my girlfriend later, my words like fire engines parading down the street. We were on the street and I wanted everyone nearby to hear how truly tough and noble I was. Like a dalmation. "I can't believe people treat you so badly," I declared. "You're the smartest most beautiful person I know, and all the world can see is your Tape Recorder Head. Well, never fear. I'll always protect you."

I was full of bravado like the dalmation, sauntering down the street after the successful rescue of some nuns. Then I saw my girlfriend's shoulders were shaking and the dalmation me whimpered and put his head down between his paws. "Oh man I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't mean it like that. I don't go out with you to be heroic or anything. I love you." This was true. "I just sometimes get carried away."
My girlfriend shook her Tape Recorder Head. As I looked on guiltily, murmuring I love yous and I'm sorrys like a ridiculous doll, she rummaged in her pocket and took out a small scrap of graph paper. She took a pen out of her jacket pocket, scribbled three words, and handed it to me.

*I was laughing.*

"Oh," I said. Was she okay? Was the stress of her life finally getting to her?

"(Whirr)," said my grilfriend, and she played back the whole conversation. The second time around I could hear other things in my voice besides confidence and badassness. I mean, I could hear them most of all, but they sounded so fierce they didn't sound real. Underneath them I could hear a little kid pretending that he could run fast and play football. I hadn't known it, but I had been faking strength and power my whole life. I hadn't known it, and no one else had noticed probably, but my girlfriend had heard it in my voice. Hearing my useless words, these big lies that she had seen through for such a long time, I was so embarrassed I couldn't even look at her.


  1. This reminds me of a story I read one time about two middle school boys who are friends, and one is normal and one is an inflatable plastic life-sized doll. Who writes on a white board to communicate because inflatable boys don't have vocal cords.

    I can't remember the title or author.

    Anyway: Cool. I like it.

  2. If you can believe it, I actually just read that story but I can't remember when.

    Or maybe I read "Flat Stanley." Could it be that? I guess it's just kind of similar. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Stanley)

  3. No, it was more depressing than Flat Stanley. The inflatable boy was suicidal because he knew he could never live a normal life as an inflatable person and his parents were obviously disappointed that they had an inflatable son and his friend's dad sicced a pit bull on him.

  4. Oh my gosh, that sounds like a really good book.

  5. wow, that was amazing. I've never read anything by Joe Hill before and now I want to read everything. Thank you.

  6. I really like this.

    Nothing more insightful to add, just thought I'd put that down for the record. ( :

  7. Yes! It was Pop Art! Thank you, now I can find it again. :)

  8. I like this too. I did this-

    I haven't drawn anything in about a year.